We visited the caves of El Castillo and Las Monedas by dividing into two smaller groups. The caves are located near the village of Puente Viesgo in Santander Province. Our guide to the sites was Pilar Garcia Díaz.
El Castillo cave is well known for engravings on deer shoulder blades that were found in the paleolithic deposits at the cave mouth. They are now in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. The cave itself is divided into two parts that are separated by huge blocks jumbled together. There were two narrow passages that linked these two parts. It is considered a “multiple sanctuary” because the deposits at the cave entrance span the entire paleolithic. The cave art includes horses, bison, ibex and deer, both as engravings and drawings. In addition to the mineral drawings which can’t be dated, there are charcoal bison that have been radiocarbon dated to 11,110 and 10,960 BCE. There are over 50 red hands with at least 35 of them being left hands. Often associated with these hands are red dots of various sizes. The dots are also found associated with many lines.
Las Monedas is also located in the same hill (as are two other caves, La Pasiega and Las Chimeneas which are not open). It was originally called Cueva de los Osos (Cave of the Bears) after cave bear bones found there. The current name comes from some 15th century coins found in a deep shaft. Their reason for being there is unknown, but there were 23 silver and copper coins in a pouch. The cave contains many geologically significant concretions, stalagmites, and mineral colors. There is fossilized mud that reaches to the ceilings. The flooding at various times has worn smooth different levels of the cave roof. It is thought that the art of Las Monedas was produced by one person. It was done in charcoal and is in a small narrow passage. There are signs or abstract marks when you first enter. A little way later is the most famous figures of the cave: a horse and a reindeer. They are drawn on the same surface but vertically and are back to back. The reindeer is one of the best found. This area of Spain would have been one of the most southerly areas of the reindeer. Additionally there are drawings further down the passage and into a small chamber at the end. The charcoal drawings have been dated to about 12,000 years ago.